When to use second person

There are only a handful of reasons for any author to use second person, among them:

  • in instructions, where the reader is told what to do, step by step.  Readers readily acquiesce to such commands because they want and need to know how to use their microwaves or set the time on their DVD players.
  • in letters, where the level of intimacy is such that the reader, addressed directly, enters a predetermined relationship.
  • in reflection, where the narrator, looking back, speaks of his own past in a kind of encompassing universal.
  • in mental illness, where the “you” is dissociative. The persona has separated from the “I” to achieve distance from his actions, thoughts, or memories.  Such second person narrative is risky. When asked to take a narrative journey with a dissociative personality, readers throw up barriers: they will not willingly perform acts outside their own codes of morality.

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About Loranne Brown

Loranne Brown, MFA: Journalist and novelist (The Handless Maiden, Doubleday Canada 1998) teaches Professional Writing at Trinity Western University, Langley, BC. Blog: https://whatisitwithwriting.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @MFAGals @LoranneBrown View all posts by Loranne Brown

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